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Thursday, August 18, 2022
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Federal Budget Battle Could Cost Territory Dearly

Federal budget slashing during last week’s partisan brinksmanship over shutting the government has taken potentially millions from the territory, and V.I. agencies should use their federal money quickly or risk losing more, according to Delegate Donna Christensen.

During last week’s budget showdown between Democrats and Republicans, cuts to the Department of Interior budget resulted in a $900,000 loss for the U.S. Virgin Islands for critical wastewater system repairs and improvements, according to a statement from Christensen.

“This was money earmarked for fiscal year 2010 that was sitting around unused, and so became an attractive target for lawmakers looking to cut funding across the board,” Christensen said.

The details of the last minute agreement that prevented a shutdown of the federal government were made public late Monday and the U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote on the agreement this week. It has at least $38 billion in cuts to federal spending for this fiscal year.

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“While we were all relieved that a disastrous shutdown was avoided, there are painful cuts across the board, some of which will affect the territory in other ways as programs that are funded at home spread the cost throughout the country,” Christensen said.

Cuts that may affect territorial agencies include:
— State and Local Law Enforcement grants, funded at $1.1 billion, cut by $414 million;
— NOAA funded at $4.6 billion, cut by $140 million;
— COPS grants funded at $496 million, cut by $296 million;
— Legal Services Corporation funded at $405 million, cut by $15 million;
— Army Corps of Engineers funded at $4.9 billion, cut by $578 million;
— Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy funded at $1.8 billion, cut by $407 million;
— FEMA State and Local Grants funded at $2.23 billion, cut by $815 million;
— Environmental Protection Agency funded at $8.7 billion, cut by $1.6 billion;
— State Drinking Water and Waste Water Infrastructure funded at $2.5 billion, cut by $997 million;
— Land and Water Conservation Fund at $301 million, cut by $149 million;
— Workforce Investment Act job training grants, funded at $2.8 billion, cut by $182 million; and
— Community Development Block Grants funded at $3.5 billion, cut by $950 million.

Democrats were able to restore funding to many programs that were zeroed out under the budget bill passed by Republicans in the House earlier this year, Christensen said.
Democrats were able to restore funding to Women, Infants and Children (WIC), Federal Emergency Management Agency Disaster Relief, Head Start, and Women and Children’s Health programs under Title 10, she said.

The Workforce Investment Act and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting were restored and the maximum Pell Grant award for college students was not cut, but remains at $5,500.

“The budget showdown will continue as we work on the 2012 budget, which already includes draconian cuts to Medicaid and Medicare," Christensen said. "Anyone with stimulus money should be aware that this is no time to leave it just hanging around, because it will be vulnerable to those looking for places to cut the budget.”

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